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Oh, academia!

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When I went home, to Ukraine, this summer for a short break from my intense study, besides lots of fun, hugs and my mom's homemade food I got to experience quite an interesting communication struggle that I have never experienced before. Just as an example here, it took me almost two weeks to explain to my dad what it is that I study here in the US. And, trust me, my dad is quite smart. The problem was in the time gap between generations, countries, cultures created by advanced technologies and high mobility; the problem was also in me, trying to translate essential English words from my day-to-day academic life, words, inexistent yet in my native Russian or Ukrainian.

You see, I discovered that the education journey you are going on sometimes tends to carry you away from your "roots", from your family and people you knew before all of your academia or people you grew up with. How is that, you'd ask? Gradually, slowly you gain that smartness and sophistication; grow into an intelligent product of the higher education; experience variety of intercultural interactions, while your people back home live their own busy lives at their small towns' speed. But as long as you learn to appreciate your growth along with embracing your "roots", you'll find it very inspiring to be sometimes an ambassador of the new knowledge to your home.

For those of you who are very much into reading, I'd like to suggest this article on the topic that I found quite picturesque and interesting. Enjoy your "journey" wherever you are and never forget where you came from.


Lubrano-The_Shock_of_Education_How_College_Corrupts.pdf


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What happens when your academic life and your dreams coincide

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The week of November 11th to November 18th is an International Education Week. It is a great opportunity for all international students to learn about educational opportunities around the world and in the USA in particular. As an international graduate student studying Comparative and International Development Education at the U of M, I would like to share about my contribution into the "world of international education."

When I just arrived to Minnesota to start my first semester as a grad student, I accidently got involved with the Civic Leadership Engagement Program for Minnesota and Ukraine due to my natural desire and ability to jump into any kind of unpaid job or initiative. I was just a very happy Russian-English-Russian interpreter for a while until I realize how much I care about this Program and how much I want something similar to this Program to be done for Ukrainian youth. As the result the idea of creating Youth Leadership Engagement Program for Ukraine and Minnesota youth was born. And thus, my new journey started. During next few month several people gathered together to discuss, create, and set up the Program. My classmates and some of my professors got excited and agreed to help out. We've contacted many youth driven organizations around the Twin Cities area to see if we can work together for the best learning experiences of our youth. The Youth Leadership Engagement Program for Ukrainian youth that once was just a big dream of mine turned into my Master's thesis project; and more than that, it turned into the everyday reality of my life.

The junior high and high school students from Ukraine arrived to Minnesota about two weeks ago and are going to spend two more weeks on Minnesota soil learning about youth empowerment, leadership, governance, transparency, and democracy. I'm completely overwhelmed with enthusiasm and all of the learning experiences we discover together every day. We've visited many organizations (Public Achievement, Fire Department, Police Station, City Hall, University of Minnesota, etc.) and interacted with many inspiring people (ex-Governor of Minnesota is just one of them). I would never believe I'd be a part of such an important initiative that someday, I'm sure, will turn into a movement and will give my country incredible leaders capable of making best decisions for the better future of our nation. Now I believe more than ever, big accomplishments start with big dreams. So never lessen your dreams.

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Managing stress and what does that have to do with your roommates

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Have you ever had a feeling like you can't keep up with your crazy life anymore, as if somebody stole every happy thought from your brain and there are almost nothing (even babies and poppies) that can make you smile again. Perhaps you don't even want to walk outside you room... or bed. You feel so overwhelmed, responsible, stressed, and mad for the whole world's problems laying on your shoulders (really, there are just the midterms, papers, and job you are juggling with but it feels like there is the whole world involved in making your life miserable). And your social life... just sucks! Oh wait. It doesn't suck, because... you just don't have a social life at all. So imagine you are sitting in your room all by yourself and not even trying to keep track of the Sneakers bars you ate while embracing your misery, when the magic super hero in the image of your roommate appears at your door to rescue you from the mythical Dragon Life you created. Sounds familiar? Well, may be not so much of the dragons and the super heroes part :) But, seriously, how often we all get so much caught up by our everyday business with all of the activities and responsibilities that eventually leads us to an awful stress and even depression. Student life might be difficult and stressful. Think of your ways or tools to manage stress? How do you handle difficulties?

I found for myself the best way to reconcile with my crazy life is to have happy roommates around. Seriously, I love my roommates. And I don't know what exactly keeps them happy: the Ukrainian food that I cook from time to time, or the fact that we live in a beautiful house right by the lake, or a desire to support and accept each other as we are and create a little "family" away from the family? Anyway, on that "rainy" day of mine, my roommate Bitsy yelled me from the kitchen to "get on the couch right now!" to see some uTube video. What happen next... 15 minutes of a crazy laughter and 15 more of a discussion about how some people can produce joy and pure happiness within themselves and how we sometimes forget that we can really notice simple things and the joy they can bring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQSNhk5ICTI
My Dragon Life flew away scared and embarrassed and I felt how my cheerfulness comes back to me. After all, this is my choice to be happy or not. I choose to smile or not. I decide to keep myself above the stress and self pity. I love my roommates for reminding me about simple things that bring you joy and for encouraging me to bring joy to others whatever that means (an unexpected gift, or a sandwich, or a hug)


But even if you don't have awesome happy roommates or friends around, or you don't feel comfortable to talk to your friends about what you are going through, there are always services for you at the U of M to help you get where you want to get (I mean finishing up your midterms, or getting your dissertation done, or graduate, or whatever else it might be (I seriously can not think of anything not study related now :) Some of my friends checked out the U of M Boynton Mental Health Services (the word "mental" here doesn't mean you might not necessarily have to have mental disorder or disability to be eligible for the services. You might simply feel homesick or suffer a heartbreak after breaking up with your boyfriend/girlfriend.) The experienced professional will be glad to help you there: http://www.bhs.umn.edu/east-bank-clinic/mental-health-services.htm You just need to ask.


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...and let the adventure begin!

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Hey, future Gophers! My name is Natalia Krasnobaieva, I am from sunny Crimea, that is in Ukraine. I am a second year Master's student in the College of Education and Human Development, Department of Organizational Leadership Development and Policy, at the University of Minnesota. I am getting my degree in Comparative and International Development Education. My main passions are youth development and education in Ukraine, although I pay a lot of my attention to creativity development, volunteering and theater activities.

I became an International Students Ambassador because I believe I can share my experience at the U of M (this is how we call the university out here) to encourage others from Europe to apply and join our "one big happy golden family," as Eric Kaler, our University of Minnesota's President once said.

So you might ask, what's "gopher"? Or why the "big happy family" is "golden"? And that's exactly what I asked myself when I first arrived on campus. I was actually surrounded by golden and maroon colors everywhere I went the first day. I've learned pretty quickly that misterious Gopher's name is Goldy and he is our university's mascot. And since he happened to be golden, the university's pride color is golden... hm, and maroon. Well, some people even wear something golden or maroon on Fridays to show the university pride. And this is how I got myself a new pair of pretty awesome yellow shoes ;)

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